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Monday 10 December 2018

Sexton: it's not up to the players to try convince joe to stay

Out-half says team are in the dark on Schmidt's future plans

Ireland and Leinster out-half, Johnny Sexton, pictured last night after being named the Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year at the annual Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Awards hosted at Aviva Stadium
Ireland and Leinster out-half, Johnny Sexton, pictured last night after being named the Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year at the annual Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Awards hosted at Aviva Stadium

Joe. Will he stay or will he go?

Jonathan Sexton is in the dark, like everyone else, over Joe Schmidt's ultimate decision whether to exit Ireland or extend his contract.

The out-half will be at peace with whatever his coach does because Ireland have delivered under their demanding coach's watch.

They have made their case to Schmidt through achievement. That is the only standard that matters in professional sport.

It has been a golden period to outstrip the golden generation because there have been more firsts than at any other time in Ireland's rugby history.

There have been three Six Nations championships in five years, one Grand Slam, a Test win in South Africa, a Test series win in Australia and two wins over New Zealand; one in Chicago and one at home last Saturday.

All what's left is for Schmidt to lead the defence of the Six Nations and to breach the quarter-final barrier at the World Cup.

The players have done all they can.

"It's not up to us to persuade him," argued Sexton.

Plan

"We just go with the plan that he gives us and we leave him to do that.

"Whatever he decides to do, if he decides to go, he's left an unbelievable mark on Irish rugby. If he decides to stay, he'll continue to do so," he stated.

"He's got a lot of good young players coming through that he'll be able to build a new team with and so, look, we'll see.

"He hasn't given us any indication. He's a pretty focused guy on what's important and what was important was obviously New Zealand.

"This week he'll be focusing on America and then he'll announce it (his plans for the future) and it will be a big story whatever happens but we don't have a clue what's going to happen."

What Ireland have done is unprecedented and one of the benefits that comes from team achievement is personal acclaim.

The 33-year-old Sexton was voted the Irish Rugby Writers' Player of the Year at an awards ceremony at the Aviva Stadium last night.

"It's a very prestigious award to win in Ireland," he said. "You look at the list of players that have won it before.

"It's very, very pleasing that your efforts can be acknowledged and it's a second time (the first in 2012/13), which is nice."

All that is left is for Sexton to win the World Player of the Year ahead of New Zealand's Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane and South Africa's Malcolm Marx and Faf de Klerk at a ceremony in Monte Carlo on Sunday.

It would also be just the second time an Irishman would claim such an honour following on from the inaugural winner, Keith Wood, in 2001. Brian O'Driscoll was nominated three times, in 2001, 2002 and 2009.

It was the latter that most appalled O'Driscoll when he was somehow overlooked in favour of Richie McCaw, BOD having led Ireland to a Grand Slam, Leinster to their first Heineken Cup and been exceptional for the Lions in South Africa.

It is this stain on the awards' history that is a warning shot across the bow of those that expect it to be a foregone conclusion. It would put the seal on the greatest year of Sexton's career - a perfect year.

"Yeah, it's been a pretty special year when you consider everything that's happened with the Grand Slam.

"If you got offered a Grand Slam at the start of the year, and nothing else, you'd have snapped someone's hand off for it.

"When that happens, you reset your goals back in Leinster and you want to go back and achieve there and that rolled into the double and then going to Australia and doing the job."

This all led to Saturday's battle against the All Blacks for a first-time win at home.

"It's always special to win the first time, do something for the first time," said Sexton.

"They're clearly the best team in the world and we matched them on one day."

It may have been the day Sexton separated himself from Barrett for the World award.

"Awards are obviously very nice to win," he said. "It's not something you set out to win because, at the end of the day, it's opinion.

"The best thing about having success is that no one can ever take that away from you.

"That's the best thing about winning. It's not opinion. It's fact."

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